Palm oil and palmitic acid: a review on cardiovascular effects and carcinogenicity

Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Aug;64(5):648-59. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2013.768213. Epub 2013 Feb 14.


We reviewed the scientific literature on the evidence of the relationship between palm oil and adverse effects on human health. Few studies have investigated the effects of palm oil per se, and the main reason why it has been associated with negative health effects is the relatively high content of saturated fatty acids (SFAs), particularly palmitic acid, which in turn have been associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease and some tumours. However, more recent investigations on the topic seem to have reconsidered the negative role of the dietary SFAs as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and show that not only the type of fat, but also that the triglyceride structure plays a role in cholesterolaemia. As regards to a role in cancer, specific studies on dietary palmitic acid or palm oil and the risk of cancer development are scanty, and the evidence is not convincing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Coronary Disease / etiology
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Palm Oil
  • Palmitic Acid / adverse effects*
  • Palmitic Acid / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects*
  • Triglycerides / chemistry*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Plant Oils
  • Triglycerides
  • Palmitic Acid
  • Palm Oil